What a year! Reporters ran out of superlatives to describe the action before the 2018 racing and slopestyle seasons had reached their halfway points. Choosing the standout performances from a year of competition that set the bar so high sparked some contentious moments here at PB. Picking a winner, however, made the nomination melee seem like a THC tea party. Each of our five nominees: Jolanda Neff's battle of La Bresse for the XCO World Cup title, Nicholi Rogatkin's Triple Crown of Slopestyle, Sam Hill's two for two EWS championship titles, Martin Maes' back-to-back EWS and World Cup DH wins, or Kate Courtney's fairy-tale gold medal at the Lenzerheide XCO World Championships, could become an award winning sports documentary - but only one can earn this award. So please, lay down your weapons and take a deep breath...
Pinkbike's 2018 award for Best Performance goes to Kate Courtney.
Out-of-the-blue victories at the World Championships are most often blunted by extenuating circumstances. Inclement weather, injuries, uncooperative officials, bad courses - reporters grasp for anything that might help to explain how a start-line of seasoned greats could be laid low by the mid-pack contender who snatched the gold and crashed the podium party. Not this time.
Kate Courtney was on the radar as a promising up-and-comer after earning the U23 series title in 2017, and posting a number of top-ten results this year in her first season as an elite World Cup cross-country racer. Nobody, however, considered the 22-year-old American as a medal contender at the World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. The demanding course favored more seasoned athletes, especially World Cup series winner Jolanda Neff, who was competing in front of her home crowd, and the monstrously powerful Dane, Annika Langvad. Should those two falter, Canadian Emily Batty and France's Pauline Ferrand-Prevot both had been on late-season World Cup tears and were definitely in the medal hunt. Against those intimidating odds, Courtney's plan was simple: Stay on pace and ride her own race.
Under blue skies and perfect track conditions, at a venue that has been praised by all, USA's Kate Courtney found her way to the front, and in a relentless battle that distanced the international field, she clawed her way back from repeated attacks by Emily Batty and race-leader Annika Langvad. Batty faded in the closing laps while Courtney inched towards Langvad, persistence versus power. Besting Langvad in the race's final moments, Kate Courtney crossed the line alone, World Champion - fair and square.
Watch the full race replay here